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BIBLE STUDY on VERSE

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BIBLE STUDY on VERSE - Page 3 Empty Re: BIBLE STUDY on VERSE

Post  Admin on Sat 29 Aug 2020, 10:09 pm

Romans 3:31
(31) Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

In his writings, Paul uses these terms—faith, grace, and justification—interchangeably. He uses one word here, another there, depending on which nuance he wants to bring to the fore, so that we get a complete picture of what is happening. Here, he is talking about faith, and within the subject of justification, he says, "No, faith in the blood of Jesus Christ establishes the law!" not "does away with" it. Faith in no way invalidates God's law. None of it!

Notice that your Bible very likely reads "the law." However, it does not say that in the Greek; the definite article does not precede "law" either time it appears in this verse. The Interlinear Bible, which is a literal translation, reads: "Law then do we nullify through faith? Not let it be! But law do we establish." Establish means "cause to stand, confirm."

One might argue, "What difference does the lack of an article make?" In this case, if it read "the law," Paul would have been referring to either the entire Pentateuch or to a specific law. But writing it as he did, he means law in general as a legal argument. Any law! Man's law, God's law, the Ten Commandments, the sacrifices—everything is included under that blanket statement. He says, "Faith establishes law." It remains for other passages to tell us about a specific law or body of laws that might be set aside. So, then, faith—used here in connection with grace and justification—establishes law. It does NOT do away with it; such an interpretation is the exact opposite of what is written!

When a person is justified, it is for the very reason that he is out of alignment with what he is being measured against. So after justification, the standard is not just thrown away! Indeed, the standard becomes more important than ever because we do not want to get out of alignment ever again. We need the law's guidance to help us in what we must do and to warn us when we are veering from the way.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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BIBLE STUDY on VERSE - Page 3 Empty Re: BIBLE STUDY on VERSE

Post  Admin on Fri 28 Aug 2020, 4:09 pm

Genesis 1:26-27
(26) Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." (27) So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

The word "image" is translated from the Hebrew tselem, and it means"shape, resemblance, figure, shadow." There is nothing abstract in it. This same word is used in Genesis 5:3:

And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image [tselem], and named him Seth.

Adam lived 130 years and begot a son in his own likeness, after his shape, after his resemblance, after his figure, after his shadow. There is absolutely no argument from anyone anywhere about the meaning of "image" here. There is nothing abstract.

Even as the animals reproduced after their kind, so did Adam and Eve reproduce after their kind. What was reproduced was in the form and shape of Adam and Eve. It was in their image. It is only when we apply this to God that people begin to question. All go on the assumption that God really does not have any shape—it is only something that He uses when convenient. However, that is not what the Bible testifies.

If we want to be accurate with the scriptures, we must be consistent with the way these words are used in the Scripture. The same word is used of Adam and Eve as is used of God.

This word is also used in Exodus 20:4—right in the commandment: "You shall not make for yourself a carved image [tselem]. . . ." This is the same word as Genesis 1:26. Does anybody contend that these images do not look like eagles, dragons, snakes, or men or women? No, the image, the idol, looks like something that is a resemblance, the shape, the form of what it is being copied from. This word can also be found in Leviticus 26:1; Psalm 106:19; and Isaiah 40:18-20; 44:9-17.

Seventeen times the word tselemappears in the Old Testament, and even the liberal Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, which goes to great lengths to avoid saying it, admits that concrete form and physical resemblance must be considered for Genesis 1:26-27: "Perhaps we may conclude that, while much of the thought that there is an external resemblance between God and man may be present, Ezekiel, who was a priest, has it" (vol. II, p. 684).

The Scripture cannot be broken; they do not contradict one another. They have to grudgingly admit that it is there in the Bible. Man looks like God. Continuing the quote: "However cautiously he states it, P [P stands for priestly, one of the four different groups of people who edited the Bible] seems to have reached a measure of abstraction."

They are very sneaky. Well, maybe there is a concrete resemblance, and we know that Ezekiel has it, yet the fellow who wrote Genesis 1, perhaps he reached a measure of abstraction. How hard it is to give up the assumption!

The same consistency is shown with the word "likeness." In the Hebrew it is demooth, which means, "model, shape, fasten, similitude, and bodily resemblance."

Notice Genesis 5:1, 3:

This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness [demooth] of God. . . . And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness [demooth], after his image, and named him Seth.

If it is used for God in Genesis 1:26 (God's creation of man in His image), and then we see it here in Genesis 5:1, 3. Do we not have to apply the same discernment of what God intends? The word demooth also appears in Isaiah 40:18; Ezekiel 1:5, 10, 13, 16, 22, 26, 28; 10:1, 22.

When we begin to study the whole subject, we begin to understand why Interpreters had to say that Ezekiel showed man in physical resemblance to God.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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BIBLE STUDY on VERSE - Page 3 Empty Re: BIBLE STUDY on VERSE

Post  Admin on Thu 27 Aug 2020, 9:57 pm

1 John 4:7-8
(7) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. (8) He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

Only by knowing God we can have this love—and it is only by loving that we can know God. If that sounds like a riddle, it is not intended to be. Nor is it intended to sound like a vicious circle.

It is, though, somewhat like "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" We know that God is Creator—that the chicken came first—but science disputes this. There must be a beginning of the cycle because one is dependent on the other. In terms of knowing and loving God, knowing Him is dependent on loving Him, and loving Him is dependent On knowing Him. The two cannot be separated.

Only by learning to love God do we learn what His nature is like, that is, what He is like. Yet, we cannot have that love until we first come to know Him. It is though fellowship with Him that we come to know Him and receive the love. In using that love, we come to be like God, and only then do we really know Him.

John is saying that it is only in experiencing God's love ourselves that we come to really know Him. This kind of love is something that we have to practice. All is this is possible because God—here comes the beginning of the cycle—by His love initiates the relationship with us. At that point, by His love, He is the primary sustainer of the relationship. If He were not the primary One sustaining it, we would not have enough love to continue the relationship. So Paul writes in Romans 5:10 that we are saved by His life. He takes the burden of our salvation primarily on His shoulders. And that is very comforting indeed.

So, God calls us and grants us repentance, each being an act of love. He then forgives us because we repent. That, too, is an act of love. He then gives us His Spirit, by which we can fellowship with Him and live in His presence. This is also an act of love on His part.

By His giving us His Spirit, we begin to have elements of His love in us, so now we can begin to love Him. We are in fellowship with Him and can begin to give that love back to Him. We begin to experience it, and in experiencing it, we begin to know what He is like. The cycle is working! And as we give love back to Him, He gives more to us because we are growing. God's love in us begins to be perfected.

Thus, God in His love begins the cycle, and He in His love keeps the cycle going. However, it does require a response on our part: We must return to Him the love He sheds abroad in our hearts, as well as give it out to others.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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BIBLE STUDY on VERSE - Page 3 Empty Re: BIBLE STUDY on VERSE

Post  Admin on Wed 26 Aug 2020, 10:56 pm

Genesis 3:14-15
(14) So the LORD God said to the serpent:
" Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.

(15) And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel."
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

Six thousand years later, the Israelitish people and modern-day Christians living by faith are still anticipating the Promised Seed's second coming in glory. When God gave this judgment, there was little information within the sign to use as an identifier except that Eve was the only female at that time, and she had as yet no children. However, her first child was a son, and the anticipation began. She probably assumed that he was the Promised Seed. She was wrong—he was a murderer.

She had a third son, Seth (Genesis 4:23-25), and he was not the Promised Seed either, but he did become an ancestor of the Promised Seed. The Promised Seed's lineage can be traced from Seth through Noah to Abraham, Jacob, Judah, King David, and finally, Joseph and Mary when He was born in Bethlehem, Judea. The sign took around 4,000 years to come to pass after God's judgment of the Serpent in Genesis 3.

As the centuries slid by, God occasionally added reminders and more precise descriptions of the Promised Seed so that, if the Israelites believed Him, they could more accurately identify the Messiah's appearance when God sent Him. God kept His word. He did send Him, and He performed His responsibility admirably.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Tue 25 Aug 2020, 5:24 pm

Colossians 3:12-13
(12) Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; (13) bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

The very fact that Paul urges us to dress ourselves with these virtues signifies that none of us has "arrived" spiritually. All of us are flawed, deficient, and weak in some respects. As we yield and develop these virtues, we must be forbearing and forgiving toward our brothers on the basis of Christ's example of forbearance and mercy toward us. The enabling power of God's Spirit is already within us, or this exhortation would be in vain.

It can be done if we will choose to humble ourselves and act when we become aware of the need of a brother or of the church itself. God calls upon us here not merely to act but to do it with affection. In all cases, we must let our heart dictate to our hand, to let our most tender feelings encounter the miseries of those in distress, just as Christ did in descending to clothe Himself in clay. We need to let our feelings be at hand and readily touched that we might open our hands wide in help.

This world has hardened us. We have seen so much arrogance and cruelty that God warns that at the end people will be "without natural affection" (II Timothy 3:3, KJV). We are this end-time generation, and we must go a long way even to start to be like Christ in kindness. But we can do it! Perhaps we can liken beginning to be like this to learning to swim by just "jumping in." Kindness is something that we must develop, and we can do it because God has already enabled us by His Spirit. This fruit is especially sweet tasting and a major factor in producing unity.

Never forget God's character, His example, and this promise He has given to us in Isaiah 54:10: "'For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord, who has mercy on you."

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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BIBLE STUDY on VERSE - Page 3 Empty Re: BIBLE STUDY on VERSE

Post  Admin on Mon 24 Aug 2020, 10:21 pm

Luke 14:25-30
(25) Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, (26) "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. (27) And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. (28) For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— (29) lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, (30) saying, "This man began to build and was not able to finish"?

  Luke 9:57-62
(57) Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go." (58) And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." (59) Then He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." (60) Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God." (61) And another also said, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house." (62) But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
New King James Version   

In the warnings of possible costs in Luke 9:57-62; 14:25-30, He says we must expect the loss of the respect and association with those we feel the most affection for, family members. They are not going to appreciate the changes we have made in our lives. They are yet blinded because God has not removed the veil covering their spiritual perceptions. This happens to many of us. It occurred in my relationship with my parents.

Jesus warns that our lives may become seriously unstable, as outsiders might judge it. He suggests that the convert may become somewhat itinerant, seeming to have an unsettled existence. He also suggests that following Him would put demands on our lives and time that might cut close family members to the quick, perhaps even turning them into enemies. Christ makes plain that, despite God's well-known mercy, He wants our wholehearted, unreserved loyalty with no yearning ever to turn back to our former lives. It is in meeting challenges like these that the potential costs become realities.

Though not mentioned directly here, Hebrews 11 reminds us of those who were tortured by mocking and scourging, by imprisonment, by stoning, and even by being sawn in two. Others were forced to flee for their lives, wandering destitute and tormented, barely able to clothe themselves. This may not happen to many of us now, but as matters intensify, Jesus warns that people will eventually kill Christians, thinking that they are glorifying God.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Sun 23 Aug 2020, 11:18 pm

Matthew 11:12
(12) And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.

  Luke 16:16
(16) "The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.
New King James Version   

The key to understanding Jesus' words lies in understanding how the phrase "kingdom of God" or "kingdom of heaven" is used. We know that the Kingdom of God has a future aspect, when Christ will rule over the nations and His glorified brothers and sisters will reign with Him. There is also a present aspect, as we have already been conveyed into the Kingdom (Colossians 1:13), and now our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). We are already part of that heavenly Kingdom. It is a present reality for the firstfruits—though not in its fullness—and in the near future, it will be a worldwide reality.

Yet, there is another way to understand the Kingdom. When Jesus said that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17)—meaning nearby—He was referring to Himself. When He told the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God was among them, or in their midst (Luke 17:21), He referred to Himself. The king is always the highest representative of a kingdom, so when the king is present, the kingdom is also present.

We can see this in a couple of scriptures: "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matthew 12:28). Here, God's Kingdom is defined as Jesus' exercise of His power. The King, in exerting His authority over unclean spirits, displays the reign or the rule of God. The Kingdom of God is found in the Person of Jesus Christ.

This can also be seen in Mark 9:1-2:

And He said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power." Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them.

Jesus tells them they will see the Kingdom of God present with power, and within a week they see Him transfigured. His being revealed to them in glory was a demonstration of the power of God's Kingdom. Even without the glory, what stood among them was still the Kingdom of God. Because He is the King, as the central figure of the Kingdom, wherever He went, the Kingdom was present. In the book of Acts, the message of the Kingdom is inextricably tied to the central Being in that Kingdom (Acts 8:12; 19:8-10; 28:23, 31). To take this a step further, where the King abides in any person or where a person is in Christ, the Kingdom is also present.

We can now apply this principle to Christ's statements. Matthew 11:12 says that from the days of John the Baptist's preaching until that of Jesus—and even to today—Christ and those in whom He dwells suffer violence: physical or verbal assault, affliction, oppression, constraint, and perhaps even martyrdom. This world's forceful and self-willed people "seize" that Kingdom as they would a fortified city, through opposing its citizens in some way.

Similarly, in Luke 16:16, Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone uses violence against it, signifying opposition in one form or another, to constrain or repress the King and His citizens. As John records, "He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him" (John 1:11).

In other words, the gospel message was not popular. It bore fruit in those who were being called (Isaiah 55:11). Others hoped that the kingdom of Judah would be restored, and they were probably content to wait and watch this Man as He went about—as curiosity-seekers rather than opponents. However, for those who had a vested interest in maintaining the political and religious status quo, the gospel was seen as a threat, and those linked with the Kingdom of Jesus Christ were the object of all manner of resistance and persecution, both before and especially after His death.

Notice, for example, Jesus' words in Matthew 23:13: "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." Some were then in the process of entering the Kingdom, and the resistance and oppression of the scribes and Pharisees were obstacles to that entrance. John 9:22 records that "the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue." The scribes and Pharisees, as well as those influenced by them, persecuted those God was drawing into His Kingdom. There was such animosity that the King Himself suffered the most awful violence that has ever been perpetrated: a mob of creatures wantonly crucifying their sinless Creator.

We face a similar circumstance today. Even nominal Christians suffer Muslim persecution in one part of the world, while others are blocked, ridiculed, and constrained by secularists and humanists in another. True Christianity is denounced as being heretical and cultic, and its adherents suffer violence in various ways. This violence does not have to be physical violence. It can be verbal. It can be passive. It can be persecution or opposition in any number of ways.

Wherever the spirit of Satan is present, his children make the way difficult for those who are in Christ or who are being drawn to Him. They reject the royal law of the Kingdom and ridicule God's sovereignty. They sneer at His inspired Word. The violence that the Kingdom suffers will vary by degrees, but it is found wherever the ruler of this world has influence.

This is why Jesus says in John 16:33 that in the world, we will have persecution, but He also says to "be of good cheer." He does not say He will remove persecution right away, but instead, He says that He has overcome the world. He sets limits on how much violence He will allow, and what He does allow He will redeem for His own good will. The violence we suffer will never compare to the violence that He suffered for us. One day soon, though, the violence against the Kingdom will be defeated, and the violent will be given the opportunity to worship the King whom they have pierced (Zechariah 12:10).

— David C. Grabbe
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Post  Admin on Sat 22 Aug 2020, 6:24 pm

James 1:2-3
(2) My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, (3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
New King James Version   

We are counseled here by James, who was Jesus' brother. Hardly anyone knew Jesus as James did—he grew up with Him. He was able to watch Him over the course of His entire life, and so he knew the mind of Christ exceedingly well. James says that we are to consider trials as a reason for great joy because trials are capable of producing good results. However, we must understand that trials do not automatically produce good results. They can easily make one bitter rather than better. Whether one comes out better for the experience depends upon how faith, hope, and love are used. How the trial is used is the issue, and whether faith, hope, and love produce a higher level of spiritual maturity. What determines whether they make us better rather than bitter is how we use them.

James describes a person surrounded by trials of many kinds. We live in that period when iniquity abounds, and we are admonished by Jesus that we will need endurance during this time (Matthew 24:12-13). We are assaulted by many kinds of trials, and they will increase. James is concerned about whether they will produce perseverance in us.

The King James version renders this word as "patience." That may be an acceptable translation, but it is not really correct. "Perseverance" or "endurance" is better, as most modern translations translate it. This is because the Greek word that equates to our "patience" is passive, meaning that one is merely waiting something out. But the Greek word used here, hupomone, indicates activity rather than passivity. The person is not just waiting for something to happen, though he is patient in what he is going through.

Commentator William Barclay defines hupomone as "having the quality to stand, facing the storm, struggling against difficulty and opposition." It is a quality that makes progress against a trial, rather than merely waiting a difficulty out. James is focused on the testing of our belief and trust or faith. There is also hope that comes from faith, which acts as a motivator to sustain the struggle against the difficulties of life.

Hope is not directly mentioned here, but James does mention endurance. There is no active endurance unless one actually desires to accomplish something, and he has the hope of good to come from what he is enduring.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Fri 21 Aug 2020, 6:24 pm

Psalm 62:1-12
(1) Truly my soul silently waits for God;
From Him comes my salvation.
(2) He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be greatly moved. (3) How long will you attack a man?
You shall be slain, all of you,
Like a leaning wall and a tottering fence.
(4) They only consult to cast him down from his high position;
They delight in lies;
They bless with their mouth,
But they curse inwardly. Selah (5) My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.
(6) He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.
(7) In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God. (8) Trust in Him at all times, you people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah (9) Surely men of low degree are a vapor,
Men of high degree are a lie;
If they are weighed on the scales,
They are altogether lighter than vapor.
(10) Do not trust in oppression,
Nor vainly hope in robbery;
If riches increase,
Do not set your heart on them. (11) God has spoken once,
Twice I have heard this:
That power belongs to God.
(12) Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy;
For You render to each one according to his work.

New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

When a person is in ordinary trouble and needs help, does he not seek out someone who has more of whatever it takes to help him overcome his situation? The need may be as simple as an additional hand or a bit more physical strength, or it could be something more complex like wisdom, a specialized skill, practical expertise, or community influence. The helper's power may simply be that he or she has more experience in the area of need. The need may be legal, so contacting a lawyer is a wise move. If the need is medical, seeing a doctor makes sense. One would consult an auto mechanic if the car needs to be repaired, etc. We frequently seek the powers of others.

Psalm 62 instructs us that the supreme power in all creation is God. In verse 1, David begins to express this fact by saying that from God comes salvation, that He is our Deliverer from trouble, implying that it should be to Him that we run. In verse 2, God is our rock, meaning our foundation and source of stability, who keeps us grounded and free from unreasonable anxieties. He is also our defense; He can deflect attacks in ways humans cannot provide.

Verses 3-4 are said to David's attackers, who were attempting to undermine his reputation before the public while also seeking a way to assassinate him. He warns them that their lies will prove to be their undoing.

In verses 5-7, David turns his attention back to himself, trying to encourage himself by resolving to wait patiently upon God as his only trustworthy hope. In verse 7, he reminds us that God is our glory: We take pride in Him for all that He is. He can give us favor even before those who may be against us. He is our refuge, an unqualified place of safety in any circumstance. In verse 8, he exhorts others - friends, companions, and supporters - urging them to pray because God is a solid place of refuge in our times of trouble.

Five times in this brief, twelve-verse psalm, he exhorts himself or instructs us that God is the only sure place of refuge and of help in times of need. How can God be and do all these things? David names Him as our Rock, Salvation, Defender, Refuge, and Glory. He can hold all these titles because, as David says simply in verse 11, "Power [or strength] belongs to God."

This confronts us with a major reason why God is the only One we can rely on fully in our time of need. Power is not only something God possesses, but when we come to understand it, all power belongs to Him. All power flows from Him, and He gives it to whomever He will. God not only has power as a possession, but He can use it in any situation or distribute it as He sees fit! Who can fight God or gainsay His choice of whom He chooses to give it to? Who has sufficient power to nullify God's doing of anything He desires to accomplish?

Notice that in Psalm 62:11 the word "belongs" is in italics, meaning it was added by the translator. It is not a wrong addition but appropriate. It is as though He owns it; it is His to use and/or distribute as He alone sees fit. It begins to open an awesome thought to consideration: Nobody has power unless God provides it for his use.

Understanding this truth makes David's exhortation in verses 9 and 10 more understandable. Compared to God, men are so puny as to be nothing. They may appear strong on the surface, but with our powerful, trustworthy Resource, we do not have to retaliate stupidly or be overwrought by anxiety.

This powerful Being is on our side by His choice! We have not earned it.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Thu 20 Aug 2020, 10:18 pm

Matthew 7:15-20
(15) "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. (16) You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? (17) Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. (18) A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. (19) Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (20) Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
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The description here is very apt—wolves in sheep's clothing. They appear on the outside to be something they are not. When Jesus uttered this, He was probably thinking of false ministers who would insinuate themselves into the church by appearing to be sheep within the sheepfold.

Jesus uses this terminology in regard to His relationship with the church. He was the Shepherd, and we are His sheep. Here we have wolves (false ministers) who look like sheep, but it is hypocrisy. They only look that way on the outside. He tells us we will know them by their fruits. The fruit that is produced will not necessarily appear quickly. But Christ guarantees that over a period of time the church will be stripped of its true spiritual vitality in terms of the character that will be produced within the flock, making the rise of wolves in sheep's clothing more likely.

What is He saying? The implication is that Jesus is connecting belief with practice. If we believe a certain set of doctrines, we will practice something because of the teaching. A religious creed or the dogma that a group is following will produce a certain kind of conduct by the people. Belief and practice, creed and conduct—Jesus is saying they are vitality connected. In other words, the teacher cannot hide what he is going to produce. Eventually it will come out. Their false philosophies, no matter how attractive they may appear at first sight, will in the long run be exposed for what they really are.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Wed 19 Aug 2020, 10:12 pm

Matthew 14:25-31
(25) Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. (26) And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. (27) But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.' (28) And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” (29) So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. (30) But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” (31) And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?'
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We see that doubt causes fear, but we also see a hint of how we can combat that fear and get it under control. As long as Peter kept his focus on Christ, he could do the impossible, but once he began walking by sight, fear gripped him. Under its control, he was no longer able to do the impossible. Even though fear is a natural human emotion, do we control it or does it control us (see Genesis 4:7)?

Hebrews 3:12 warns, "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God." We need to be on guard against unbelief. The author conjures up a picture of an enemy ready to pounce, advising us that we always need to be at the ready for its attack. We must face it and overcome it.

This verse is not talking about the normal unbelief and its fruit of fear that all people have, for fearfulness is a common human condition. As our Creator, God understands that doubts will creep in now and again. Rather, it speaks of a heart controlled by doubt, by unbelief, leading to fear that can cause us to cut and run from the living God. That kind of heart will drag a person down just as Peter's doubt dragged him down into the waters of Galilee.

The central peril of unbelief is that it breaks the trust that is the basis of our relationship with God. We can see how this worked in Satan. God created him perfect (Ezekiel 28:15), yet somewhere along the line he no longer believed that God was good and doubted that God had his best interests at heart. This doubt about God's love led to the fear that he would not get what he deserved. That fear, born of his unbelief and doubt, led to his rebellion and the most glaring example yet of departing from the living God.

Does God have our best interests at heart? Jeremiah 29:11 says, Yes! "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." As the old saying goes, this is straight from the horse's mouth—from the highest Authority in the universe. The only question is do we believe it with every fiber of our beings?

— Pat Higgins
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Post  Admin on Tue 18 Aug 2020, 9:57 pm

Joshua 24:2-3
(2) And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the LORD God of Israel: "Your fathers, including Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, dwelt on the other side of the River in old times; and they served other gods. (3) Then I took your father Abraham from the other side of the River, led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac.
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This demonstrates a problem Abraham appears to have had at the beginning of his conversion, showing that he was not perfect in his obedience. It also reveals God's patience in dealing with us, as well as how little control we sometimes exercise over some circumstances. In such times, we must continue trusting God and fighting to overcome as He leads us through them and teaches us aspects of His character.

Abraham's family members were outright pagans, as was Abraham before his conversion. We need to add Genesis 11:27-32 to the mix:

This is the genealogy of Terah: Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. Haran begot Lot. And Haran died before his father Terah in his native land, Ur of the Chaldeans. Then Abram and Nahor took wives: the name of Abram's wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and the father of Iscah. But Sarai was barren; she had no child. And Terah took his son Abram, and his grandson Lot, the son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram's wife, and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran and dwelt there. So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran.

Barnes Notes contains a fairly complex study of these verses, showing that Abraham actually received his initial calling when he was 70 while living in Ur of the Chaldeans. Why "initial"? Verse 31 says they left Ur and then came to Haran, adding that Abraham's family dwelt there. "Dwelt" indicates that they remained there for an extended period—it was no mere overnight stop by a group of pilgrims at a motel.

Stephen's speech in Acts 7:2-4 helps us to understand:

Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, "Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you." Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell.

Stephen clearly states that God called Abraham before he dwelt in Haran, but Genesis 12:1 shows God then moved him from Haran after his father died. Apparently, Abraham's account to his father and others in the family—but most especially his father—of the things he was learning and believing in his calling persuaded them, despite being pagan to the core, that they, too, should emigrate to wherever God was leading Abraham.

Recall, however, from Isaiah 51:2 that God says that He called Abraham alone. Genesis 11:31 clearly shows Terah, the pagan patriarch of the family, leading the expedition, not Abraham. Abraham no doubt deferred to his father in this decision, but this was not God's will.

God knew that, because of Abraham's attitude, he would continue to defer to Terah. God did not want Terah's direct influence in what He was establishing through Abraham. Under Terah's pagan, patriarchal leadership, they got only as far as Haran from Ur, by itself an arduous 700-mile journey on foot!

Researchers speculate that the trip from Ur to Haran plus the sojourn there may have taken as long as five years before the party resumed the journey to Canaan. Perhaps Terah had a lengthy, lingering illness before dying. However, when the last leg of the journey was made, it was under Abraham's leadership.

God intends us to understand that the distance to the Promised Land—1,200 miles on foot from Ur to Canaan—plus the time spent getting there, illustrate the difficulty of breaking away from what we were to what God wants us to be. Unfortunately, some people never seem to accomplish the break.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Mon 17 Aug 2020, 4:40 pm

Ephesians 6:4
(4) And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
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The English word "nurture" (KJV) or "training" (NKJV) indicates caring for and providing supportive instruction. The underlying Greek word more specifically involves educational feeding or instruction, as if in school or for the purpose of learning a discipline. The word thus covers verbal instruction, chastening, and the use of drills needed to produce Christian character. It does not at all indicate that any of these approaches is even harsh, let alone cruel. However, it suggests that parents follow an organized and consistent plan.

The term "admonition" or "instruction" (NIV) means a warning, drawing specific attention to verbal instruction. In summary, Paul touches on three areas vital to child-training so that children keep the fifth commandment properly. "Of the Lord" touches on the standard or quality one is to strive for. "Nurture" indicates what is physically done to and with the child in terms of consistent, regimented training, including discipline. "Admonition" draws attention to what is said and how it is said to the child.

Taken together, then, Paul clearly teaches that child-training is something that can neither be left to chance nor sloughed off with a careless, resigned attitude, as if it were merely a necessary evil. The parents' vision must be long-range. From parents applying right principles consistently will come the gradual development of understanding and wisdom in the children. These are precursors that help produce the promised long life and prosperity in the commandment.

In I Thessalonians 2:7-8, Paul uses himself and his relationship with the Thessalonian congregation as an example:

But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.

He says he treated them with the tender affection of a nursing mother, striving hard so that no one could honestly charge him with taking anything from them. They personally witnessed how gently and consistently he dealt with them as a father does his children by appealing and encouraging them to live their lives to glorify God in their conduct.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Sun 16 Aug 2020, 10:57 pm

Acts 5:1-10
(1) But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. (2) And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet. (3) But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? (4) While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." (5) Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. (6) And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. (7) Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. (8) And Peter answered her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?" She said, "Yes, for so much." (9) Then Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." (10) Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband.
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We can perceive a mixed bag of Ananias and Sapphira's sins involved in this tragedy. Acts 4:36-37 informs us of Barnabas' sacrificial gift for the well-being of the newly formed church. Pride and desire for acclaim motivated the couple to give a gift but without the honesty or sacrifice exhibited by Barnabas and others.

"Why has Satan filled your heart" (verse 3) is the equivalent of "Why have you dared?" They were free to give whatever percentage they set, for Peter says that the entire property sale price was under their control. Their sin lay in deceitfully alleging that the amount they gave was the whole of the sale price, when it was actually only a part. They deviously exaggerated their offering.

Some think this judgment was harsh, but Peter did not. He spoke of the sin as inspired of Satan, and the passage makes clear that both Ananias and Sapphira were fully aware of what they were doing (verses 2, 9). Conscious deceit is spiritually disastrous because trust is completely violated. They should have known better.

God interpreted their action as tempting Him, seeing how much they could get away with. Their way of reaching their goals is so opposed to the gospel that God could not allow it to go unchallenged; it would have set the whole mission of the church off course. Honesty and integrity are the standard of God's way of life. Sin is no light thing with God.

These people were living behind a deceptive façade, one similar to the idea that, if one keeps the front windows clean, it does not matter how dirty the back ones are. They allowed themselves to become tools working to destroy the family relationship of trust within the church. God forcibly reminded them and us that He will not abide that.

We must treat one another with fairness and loving kindness, or we will not be in His Family. Ananias and Sapphira are shocking reminders to us that we will not get away with deceitfully cheating or taking advantage of our brethren. God may not appear to be in the picture, but only the faithless have this blindness. The penalty will be paid—unless repented of, it is only a matter of time. Ananias and Sapphira paid quickly as a lesson to us.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Sat 15 Aug 2020, 10:56 pm

Exodus 3:7-10
(7) And the LORD said: "I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. (8) So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. (9) Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. (10) Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt."
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God is already calling them, "My people." What had they done? Had they pledged themselves to God? Had they repented? They had not done a thing yet, and God is already calling them His own.

Does He have a similar feeling of possessiveness toward those that He is going to deal with in terms of salvation? Definitely! "They are Mine!" What will He do for His own? Who will hold back the hand of God? Nobody, and that is the story. Israel got out of Egypt because God set His mind to do it. He said, "I have chosen them, and they are Mine" and they had not done a thing yet. In fact, it would be weeks before they even knew that Moses existed anymore than just what they had heard about what occurred forty years before.

There is no indication that Moses had any contact with anybody in Egypt during those forty years. He was not sending letters every couple of weeks saying, "Get ready—I am just about to return now." No, he was in the wilderness learning what it is like to be a shepherd, tending sheep, because he was going to pastor a whole nation of millions of people. He was getting his attitude straightened out. God had sent him to school to prepare. The wilderness was the school of hard knocks for someone like Moses who had been reared in a cushy palace. God probably had to knock a great deal of pride, vanity, and cockiness out of him before He could use him.

Thus, the salvation of Israel was already underway. Who does the Bible say is in charge? Who does the Bible show to be the one who has the answers to their problems? Who took the initiative? Who is doing the leading? Who is doing the providing? Even at this point, we can see that God is the One doing all these things.

By the time they begin to realize that God is involved, we find that all they needed to do is to agree with what He wanted them to do, and He would do the work to bring them out of Egypt.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Fri 14 Aug 2020, 10:27 pm

Genesis 22:16-18
(16) and said: "By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— (17) blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. (18) In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice."
New King James Version  

God does not condition His fulfilling this promise on any expected behavior on the part of Abraham. Its fulfillment is not dependent on Abraham's doing something in the future. This promise, unlike the promises in the later books of the Pentateuch, is an unconditional promise.

Consider, as a second example of an unconditional promise, Genesis 12:7: "Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, 'To your descendants I will give this land.'" That is all there is to the promise. God attaches no ifs, ands, or buts to it at all. God simply says, in effect, "I will do it. Period."

The same could be said of any of the promises to the patriarchs. An analysis of Genesis 12:1-3, 7; 13:15-16; 15:18-21; 17:6-8; and 35:11-12 will yield this conclusion: In every single instance, the fulfillment of the promise does not depend on any future action or behavior God expected on the part of Abraham, Isaac, or Israel (Jacob). All of these scripturesrecord unconditional promises.

In making these unconditional promises, God revealed His purpose to the patriarchs, at least in outline. It is a purpose to which God is absolutely committed. He will not allow anything—or anyone—to stand in the way of His executing it. A good example of His resolute determination to carry out His purposes, no matter what individuals may do or think, is an incident which took place as God was about to lead the children of Israel into Canaan.

Fearful of the indigenous population, the children of Israel refused to enter the land—refused, in effect, to believe that God meant what He said when He promised Canaan to their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. In their rebellion, they even determined to "select a leader and return to Egypt" (Numbers 14:4). God's people, lacking faith, were actually trying to thwart His purposes. He was so angry with their lack of faith that He thought to "strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and . . . make [Moses] . . . a nation greater and mightier than they" (Numbers 14:12). To fulfill His unconditional promises to Abraham, God was willing to destroy an entire people and raise up another through Moses, through whom He could honor His promises to the patriarchs.

As Numbers 14:13-20 indicates, Moses dissuaded God from taking such drastic action. Nevertheless, the episode illustrates the zeal God displays in honoring His promises. He means business.

— Charles Whitaker
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Post  Admin on Thu 13 Aug 2020, 1:36 pm

Hebrews 8:8
(8) Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—

  Hebrews 8:13
(13) In that He says, "A new covenant, " He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

  Hebrews 9:15
(15) And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
New King James Version  

The word "new" is translated from the Greek word kaine. This is interesting because, while it does mean "new" in terms of time, the emphasis in the use of the word, when compared to something of the same kind, in this case, covenants, is on quality - not time. Hence, the emphasis in the use of kaine is on this covenant being better rather than being newer.

In Jesus' Parable of the Old and New Wineskins, kaine also appears. Using this understanding of kaine, the difference between the wineskins is not necessarily age (though that is implied) but quality. One wineskin is dried and cracked, while the other is supple and resilient. Though it may also be newer, it is decidedlybetter.

Putting this into a modern context, we can make a comparison between a 1910 automobile and a 1995 automobile. The 1995 automobile is a continuation of the same general kind as the 1910 automobile. Both have the same necessary parts: engine, wheels, steering wheel, seats, transmission, brakes, lights, and a nut behind the wheel. But the 1995 model has made the 1910 model obsolete as a viable mode of transportation.

So it is in the comparison between the Old Covenantandthe New. Both have the same necessary parts, so that they may be considered of the same "kind," but the New Covenant is so much betterand has so much more going for it that it has made the Old one obsolete.

Is there a difference between a testament and a covenant? The word "testament" does not even appear in English translations of the Old Testament, but it appears thirteen times in the New Testament. The Greek word is quite interesting because it does not even mean "covenant" as we think of it. In fact, researchers have been able to find only one usage outside of the Bible - in classical Greek - in which this word is used in the same way that the English and the Hebrew words are. The Greek word is diatheke, and it is the equivalent of our English word "testament" or "will" - not "covenant."

A covenantis an agreement between two parties. The emphasis in on the words "agreement" and "parties." However, a diatheke is a testament or will. As in English, it is a unilateral - a one-sided - declaration of the disposition of property that a person makes in anticipation of his death. Before we die, we usually draw up a declaration of what we want done with our property, and most people do not consult with the people they want to leave their possessions to. It is usually a private matter.

Paul used this singular word - diatheke - where two different words normally would have been used. The interesting thing is that the Greeks have a word for a covenant, suntheke, "a bilateral agreement," but the apostle did not use it.

The use of diatheke - which seemingly does not fit - has given the translators great difficulty trying to determine when Paul meant "covenant" and when he meant "will" or "testament." Why did he even do this when he could have used suntheke? The overall reason is very encouraging. Paul wanted to emphasize how much God has done unilaterally - that is, that He took upon Himself to do without consulting with others involved in the covenant - to tip the scales drastically in our favor for the purpose of our keeping the covenant and making it into His Kingdom.

For instance, "God so loved the world that He gave" Jesus Christ in our stead! It was a completely voluntary act on His part. God gives us grace and forgives our sins, and we are justified on the basis of that sacrifice and on the declaration of our faith and repentance. God gives us access to Him in prayer, again on the basis of the work of Jesus Christ. God gives us the very faith that saves. God gives us His Spirit, which is a downpayment of eternal life and empowers us to keep His laws. God gives us gifts, by that same Spirit, to serve Him and the church. He promises never to give us a trial that is too great - which translates into Him giving personal attention to each of His children! He promises never to forsake us and to complete the work that He has begun in us.

Now, brethren, some of these - in a very limited form - appear in the Old Covenant. But it is no wonder that Paul wanted to emphasize better rather than "new." The Old Covenant (because of what God has unilaterally done) is but a pale shadow of the new (covenant) in terms of what God is working out. It is nothing more than a pale shadow of the promises and of the hope that is derived by those of us who understand the New Covenant's terms.

To the unconverted who read the Bible - who look into these things - these terms are so enticing that it lures them into saying that there is nothing that we have to do. Some will go that far! They will say that it has all been done for us. They can read the terms, but they reach the wrong conclusion. It leads people to say, "There is no law," and "You don't have to keep the Sabbath. It's just ceremonial." However, the truth is that it is so one-sided, so much to our benefit, that it leaves us without excuse for failure to keep the terms - and those terms include lawkeeping.

— John W. Ritenbaugh


  Ephesians 5:14-17
(14) Therefore He says:
" Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light." (15) See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, (16) redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (17) Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
New King James Version   

Notice the encouraging reason Paul gives to wake up and carefully mind how we live: "Christ will give you light." This is an outright promise that He will give us the help to do what we must do. Backed by this promise, we are to redeem the time "because the days are evil." If his days were evil, what would Paul think of ours?

This passage reveals how the early church regarded time as it applies to a Christian. For us, all days - every period in which God's people have had to live their lives by their God-given understanding, thus by faith - are evil. God's truth has always run counter to the course of this world. Thus, the truth adds a peculiar, stressful difficulty to life regardless of when it is lived. Moreover, since each called-out individual has only one opportunity to lay hold on eternal life, and must overcome, grow, and prove his loyalty to God during that time, he must make use of every experience.

Galatians 1:3-4 confirms this perspective: "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." In terms of growing and overcoming, living in a particular period in history gives a Christian no advantage. Every era, every age, is against him, and within it, he must make the most of his calling. The times have always been evil.

To the church, then, because it must operate responsibly toward God within a highly specialized understanding of life and its purpose, every age is full of the cyclical, frustrating, repetitious events that Solomon called futile vanities. Such events lead nowhere and produce a discouraging fatalism.

However, a Christian also knows that God is directing time and events to His desired end. Thus, the church's view of time is an elegant combination of both realities, realizing that it has a work to accomplish as an organization and that each individual Christian must grow and overcome within it. So, as Christians, we must face the evil of repetitious vanity produced by sin, which history clearly records, with faith in the hope of a glorious victory for God's called-out ones, which God's Word prophesies.

Thus, Paul advises in Ephesians 5:17, "Therefore . . . understand what the will of the Lord is." As we live our lives each day, we should never let what God says slip from our minds. His point is that we need to make the most of every opportunity because time is inexorably moving toward God's desired end, and it will not stop and wait for us. We do not want to be left behind! No occasion is too insignificant to do the right thing. Time is precious! We, like God, must take it very seriously.

We must not make the mistake of relegating Christian living to a mere couple of hours on the Sabbath. Christianity involves every aspect of life. Personal study and prayer are times of clarifying God's will. But we must not neglect the doing of His will as occasions arise - and they will arise every day. Woe to us if we disregard them, for they comprise the very circumstances that challenge us to overcome and grow in our seeking of God.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Tue 11 Aug 2020, 8:45 pm

Exodus 31:13-17
(13) "Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: "Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. (14) You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. (15) Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. (16) Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. (17) It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.""
New King James Version  

Consider where this covenant appears. It is in the book of Exodus, but after chapter 20, where God gives the commandments. From this we see that God proposes a special covenant, which He places in the midst of all of the instructions for building the Tabernacle. It means that, even though these people were employed to construct such an important edifice for the worship of God, they were not to desecrate the Sabbath by working on it. Even the construction of the Tabernacle had to take second place to the keeping of the Sabbath.

The Sabbath is a sign. It is not a mark. Bible usage shows that a sign is voluntarily accepted, whereas a mark is put on against a person's will. The Sabbath is a special sign. It is a special covenant between God and His people. Who are His people?

A sign can identify an occupation. One might read, "Joe Smith, Dentist"—or plumber or electrician. A sign can also give purpose for a thing; it tells us why something is being used or done in the way that it is. A sign can give directions: "This way to River City."

A sign can also bring people together with shared interests and common purposes. Some fraternal organizations have special signs that they pass to one another to identify what lodge, or organization, it is that they belong to. A sign can unify; it can bring people together. A sign can be a pledge of mutual fidelity and commitment. Signs are used by organizations to designate membership. People wear a little badge on their lapel that says that they belong to such-and-such organization, and by it members recognize one another.

This is part of the way that the Sabbath is also used. The Sabbath serves as an external and visible bond that unites and sanctifies us [sets us apart] from everyone else. Here in the United States and Canada, almost everybody else who is religious keeps Sunday or nothing. If a person keeps the Sabbath, he is being cut away from, separated from, sanctified by the very fact that he is keeping it. Though these people do not realize it yet, it becomes a sign to them that he is in the process of being sanctified. We ought to be very much aware of this sign because we are keeping it.

Everybody who has ever kept both Sunday and Saturday knows this: Sunday sets almost no one apart because everybody who is "religious" is already doing it. Big deal! What is so different about that? They are only sanctified from the people who keep no day at all. For those who are "religious," it does not sanctify them because the Baptists are keeping the day, and the Catholics are keeping the day, as well as the Mormons, the Pentecostals, the Church of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, and the Congregationalists. All those people are keeping Sunday, and it is not separating, or sanctifying, anybody.

But once a person begins to keep the Sabbath, it immediately begins to sanctify him, to separate him from everyone else. God has a purpose that He is working out. He has made a tremendous investment in the Creation and in the death of His Son. The Sabbath is a means by which He protects His investment.

If the only reason He created the Sabbath was because we need rest, then any old time would do. Ultimately, how and why one keeps the Sabbath are the real sign. Other religious groups "keep" the Sabbath, but are they keeping it as God desires? It is how and why we keep it that makes us different—they do the sanctifying. "Sanctify them through Your truth," Jesus says in John 17:17. God's Word is truth. If people accept it and use it, they will be using the Sabbath for different purposes than others are.

God created the Sabbath to educate His people in His way. It prepares them for their witness. Suppose that a basketball coach says to his players, "Come to the gym and meet with me at such-and-such a time." But some of the players decide that they will go to a different gym, at a different time, and with a different coach. Players on a team begin to take on the qualities and the philosophy of their coach. Anybody who is familiar with athletics understands this. Those who are intimately involved in athletics say that they can always tell whether a certain player has been coached by a certain coach, say John Wooden or John Thompson. What has happened is the player has taken on the sign of the coach, and it has sanctified him from other players who are not coached by that particular coach.

The same principle is at work with God and us. He is our Coach. He has made an appointment with us to meet at a certain place, at a certain time. And if we choose not to go to where He is going to be, then we are not going to begin to take on the image of our Coach. The Sabbath was created because it both enhances and protects our relationship with God. And it provides the witness—to God, to the individual, and to the world—of who is keeping it. This is how it becomes the sign. It provides a witness.

The Sabbath exists to keep us in a proper frame of mind and to provide us with the right material to negotiate the way to God's Kingdom. We live in a grubby, grasping material world. Every day has a built-in bias towards material things, and it is very difficult to keep our minds focused on things that are spiritual. But the Sabbath, if a person is keeping it as God desires, will almost put a person into a spiritual mode, point him toward God, and force him to acknowledge Him as Creator.

The Sabbath presents us with the opportunity to consider the whys of life, to get our head on straight with the right orientation so that we can properly use the other six days. The Sabbath is the kernel, the nucleus, from which the proper worship—our response to God—grows.

Existentialist philosophers tell us that life is absurd, that all of life is nothing but a prelude to death. But keeping the Sabbath is a celebration of life! It tells us that God's creative process is continuing, that He is creating us in His spiritual image so that we might live with Him forever. For the great God, the Sabbath is a day of creation. The Sabbath ensures us that life is not absurd, but rather, it is a prelude to life on an infinitely higher and greater level. The more we become like Him, the more sanctified we are from the world. It is in experiencing the refreshing elevation of the mind that we get a tiny foretaste of what is to come.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Mon 10 Aug 2020, 5:19 pm

Romans 12:1-2
(1) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (2) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
New King James Version   

Paul exhorts us to consider a principle that applies to two areas of priestly conduct, offering sacrifices and praising God. In Greek, the emphasis in verse 1 is on the word "therefore." Why? Because Romans 12:1 begins the summary of the practical application of the principles, the teachings, the instruction that Paul gives in the first 11 chapters. He is preparing to draw practical conclusions to all the doctrinal things he taught, that is, about justification, sanctification, our calling, and the Holy Spirit, including the glorious things about Israel and what will happen in the future. It is as if he is saying, "In light of everything that I have given you thus far, here's what you are to do, priests! Sanctify yourselves by being a living sacrifice."

He means that, due to God's great gifts to us, it is "reasonable" for God to expect us to sacrifice ourselves. Sometimes modern Bibles will render this word as "spiritual," which is a correct alternative. The Greek word underlying it appears only one other time in the Bible, and in that place it clearly means "spiritual." Here, though, it means "reasonable," that itis right that we should be a sacrifice. It is logical, rational, to do this.

The "therefore" brings an exciting conclusion to his thought. He is saying that everything we do, every activity in all of life, is to be an act of worship in service to God. Everything! We are to live our lives as living sacrifices—except on those days that we want to do our own thing? No, not at all. God owns us, and He wants our lives lived all the time—every day, 24/7—as a living sacrifice. We are to sacrifice our lives to Him because it cost the life of His Son to give us the privilege of drawing close to Him.

So, He has every right to ask this of us. It is logical. It is rational for Him to demand it of us. In this case, even as Jesus is portrayed in the offerings of Leviticus 1-7, we, as His brethren, are both the priest making the offering and the offering that is being sacrificed.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Sun 09 Aug 2020, 9:51 pm

Ephesians 6:10-14
(10) Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. (11) Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (12) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (13) Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (14) Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
New King James Version  

Notice the number of times in these few verses that we are exhorted to stand. We must hold our ground as we fight against the pressures of Satan and this world. In verse 11, Paul tells us to "stand against" the Devil's tricks. In verse 13, he encourages us to prepare "to withstand in the evil day" and "having done all, to stand." In the next verse, he concludes, "Stand therefore" and put on the armor that God can supply.

There are two things to notice here. First, we are to stand firm. Paul does not instruct us to be agile or swift of foot. To the contrary, he advises us not to move; we are to stand on a firm foundation, as it were. We are to be securely grounded, rooted and unmoving. A person living a life of integrity is not shifty, but has solid convictions rather than preferences that vary with circumstances.

Second, Paul details the armor we need to "take up." He lists several pieces of "the whole armor of God," but "the breastplate of righteousness" deals mostly closely with integrity.

Most soldiers in Paul's day wore a breastplate, and even today, the most basic protection offered to police and soldiers is the armored or bulletproof vest. The Roman breastplate, primarily made of bronze and backed with leather, was worn around the chest, protecting the heart and other vital organs. In Paul's spiritual analogy, the breastplate guards the heart, the seat of our attitudes and emotions. In other words, if we are to stand firm in the truth, our heart must be protected!

Interestingly, the translation of the New Testament by J.B. Phillips renders "the breastplate of righteousness" as "integrity your breastplate." Paul instructs us to protect our heart, our love, and our emotions with a breastplate of integrity! As part of the equipment each Christian needs to stand firm in the spiritual war we have been recruited to fight, we must fasten integrity right across our chests to provide protection. What happens when a soldier takes off his breastplate? He opens his soft abdomen to attack; he is unprotected! Spiritually, the heart becomes vulnerable, apt to be turned away.

— Mike Ford
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Post  Admin on Sat 08 Aug 2020, 10:54 pm

Luke 17:21
(21) nor will they say, "See here!" or "See there!" For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you."
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

"Within" is translated from entos, used only twice in the New Testament. Its primary meaning is "inside," as it is rendered in Matthew 23:26: "Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also." However, when used in conjunction with a plural noun, entos means "among" or "in the midst of." In Luke 17:21, entos is used with "you," and from the context, we can see that Jesus was speaking to a crowd of Pharisees, who had come to question Him about the Kingdom of God (verse 20). "You," then, is plural. "The kingdom of God is among you" is best.

Most modern translations have recognized this grammatical error and translate entos as "among" or "in the midst of." Some texts, like the New King James and the New International versions, persist in using "within," though they note in the margin that "among" is an alternative.

Even without this technical knowledge of Greek, we could have easily understood that "within" is a poor and misleading translation. Christ was answering a question posed by the Pharisees, and He replied directly to them: "He answered them and said, . . . 'For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.'" But how could the Kingdom of God be within His most bitter enemies? How many times did He reveal them to be hypocritical and misleading the people? Theologically, it is quite impossible to think that His Kingdom would be in the Pharisees.

It is only after He had made this remark that He turned to His disciples (verse 22) and explained what He meant. The subject of the entire section (verses 20-37) is stated most explicitly in verse 30: "Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed." All along, He had been explaining His second coming! When He returns, He will set up His Kingdom on earth (Zechariah 14:9).

If the Kingdom is still future, how could He say that "the kingdom of God is among you"? To answer this, we must return to the four common traits of a kingdom: a king, who rules by law over a number of subjects who live within a certain territory. The primary trait is that a kingdom must be ruled by a king; otherwise, the country has some other form of government. A king of any nation is the chief representative of that nation. And the King of the Kingdom of God is none other than the living Jesus Christ!

Pilate specifically asked Jesus, "'Are You a king then?' Jesus answered, 'You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth'" (John 18:37). So as the King of God's Kingdom, He could truly tell the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God was among them.

— Richard T. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Fri 07 Aug 2020, 1:12 pm

2 Chronicles 9:22-28
(22) So King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. (23) And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart. (24) Each man brought his present: articles of silver and gold, garments, armor, spices, horses, and mules, at a set rate year by year. (25) Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king at Jerusalem. (26) So he reigned over all the kings from the River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. (27) The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and he made cedar trees as abundant as the sycamores which are in the lowland. (28) And they brought horses to Solomon from Egypt and from all lands.
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

God's Word provides an example of compromise for us to learn from, if we are wise enough to heed it (Romans 15:4; I Corinthians 10:11). This example comes from the life of the wisest king ever to live, one whom God blessed with wisdom that no one could gainsay, who had wealth and ability no one had ever possessed before. God loved this man greatly—He even spoke directly to him more than once, and because of the man's humble response, blessed him far beyond what he requested. This king, a man of peace and learning, was commissioned to build the most beautiful Temple to God in Jerusalem. The man, of course, was Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba.

To understand why Solomon's compromises seemed so small and insignificant to him when he succumbed to them, we have to understand the situation of Solomon's reign. We could compare it to America today. As Psalm 18:43-44 suggests, David and his armies had essentially subjugated all of the world that mattered at the time. King David of Israel was "the head of the nations," and faraway kings he did not even know trembled at the mention of his name. As the sole superpower in the region, wealth poured into Israel. When Solomon was made king upon David's death, not a nation on the face of the earth would have considered attacking Israel. It was just too strong.

So, Solomon ruled the known world, and as time progressed and in that strength, he did not see the need to obey God fully in all that He had commanded the kings of Israel to do. In his power and wealth, he saw no problem with compromising just a little with God's instruction. As we will see, Solomon failed completely in his old age, but the seeds of that failure were sown early in his reign.

His sounds like the perfect, storybook career until we notice God's instruction to kings in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, which specifically warns against multiplying horses, multiplying wives, and multiplying silver and gold. Was Solomon unaware of these instructions? Of course not. David, a man who knew God's law intimately, would have been sure to instruct his son in them and have him write a copy of the law as commanded. Surely, Solomon could not have been ignorant of them. He, then, must have known it was wrong to import horses and chariots from Egypt, but because of his wealth and might, he must have considered this infraction too minor to take seriously.

Why did God not want Israel's kings to import warhorses? Armored warhorses and the chariots they pulled can be compared to today's tanks, which are devastating when fighting foot soldiers. A nation with this level of war materiel put their reliance on it as it made the army such a powerful fighting machine. Why should a nation trust an invisible God to fight its battles when it could see rank upon rank of seemingly invincible horses and chariots?

God wanted His people to rely on Him. Solomon knew this, since he wrote in Proverbs 21:31:"The horse is prepared for the day of battle: but deliverance is of the LORD." The issue of importing horses may have seemed a small thing to Solomon, but it was important to God. From all indications, his compromise in this matter began his slow separation from God.

Compounding his compromise concerning warhorses, by the end of his reign, Solomon had a substantial harem (I Kings 11:1-3). As he began his reign, would Solomon have considered "multiply[ing] wives for himself," especially to this extent? Probably not. When he was tender of heart, needing God to help him rule this great people and kingdom (see II Chronicles 1:7-12), he doubtless walked carefully, making sure he did what was commanded in everything. But once secure in knowledge, wealth, and power, he began to forget the God who had spoken to him, placed him in power, and given him all that he had.

Perhaps Solomon's reasoning went something like this: "When I imported horses from Egypt, there were no adverse consequences, so what would be wrong with taking additional wives for political reasons?" We do not normally see the results of sin immediately, yet they inevitably come. At some point, he learned this principle, writing in Ecclesiastes 8:11: "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." In any case, knowing this did not help him, as I Kings 11:4-8 records.

Wise Solomon fell victim to the same temptations that the rest of us so often face. He compromised on what he thought were small concerns—matters he probably considered well into the gray areas—to do things his way rather than God's. The danger of such reasoning is that small compromises weaken character, and over time, they lead to major sins. For Solomon, the results were devastating. His experience is a warning of what will befall us if we follow his example of compromise.

The psalmist writes in Psalm 111:10, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and a good understanding have all they that do His commandments: His praise endures forever." Solomon's compromises gradually but inexorably distorted his understanding of God's laws and ways. He slowly drifted away from God, so that when he was old, unbelievable as it seems, he allowed his wives to turn his heart from the God that had given him everything.

From the "minor" infraction of importing horses, Solomon eventually condoned and was at least an accessory to the sins of idolatry and outright murder, sins that he would never have considered committing at the beginning of his reign. For, at the end of his life, Solomon worshipped Ashtoreth, Milcom, Chemosh, and Molech, the last having rituals that called for children to be given to the fire of his altar. By giving his royal sanction to worshipping these pagan deities, he set a precedent that was followed by many of the kings of Israel and Judah after him.

— John O. Reid (1930-2016)
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Post  Admin on Thu 06 Aug 2020, 11:24 pm

 Revelation 4:8-11
8) The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:
"Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!" (9) Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, (10) the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying:
(11) "You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created."
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version
 
The One who receives continuous praise and submission from these awesome angelic beings is our Savior and Creator. Without directly saying it, this passage touches on a major issue in this great purpose He is working out: that, unlike Satan and His demons, will we be loyal, faithful, to our Creator God, as He works out and governs His purpose for each of us personally? Or in our impatience will we resist and rebel?
 
Verse 11 contains the key statement that is vital to our living by faith: He created all things in the first place and all—including us—is created for His purpose to be fulfilled. The King James Version translates this phrase, "For You have created all things, and for Your pleasure they are and were created."
 
Satan could not accept this. Consider deeply what has resulted! So we need to take this sobering thought down to our level and to our time and examine it in more detail against the issues of our own lives.
 
Can we live by faith that He is, that He knows what He is doing with our lives, and that by His merciful act He has included us as part of His good pleasure? Can we accept that He knows exactly where His creative efforts are headed and what it will take to form and shape us into what He pleases? At the same time, we know His goal for us only vaguely, yet we must fully accept whatever He brings to bear on us for His purposes.
 
— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Wed 05 Aug 2020, 10:15 pm

Colossians 3:5
(5) Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
New King James Version   Change your email Bible version

The Greek word underlying "covetousness" is pleonexia, which means "the desire to have more." This is among the ugliest of sins because it involves idolatry as well as its effects on others. The Greeks defined it as "the insatiable desire to have what rightfully belongs to others." It is further described as "ruthless self-seeking," the kind of attitude that the arrogant and callous person has, assuming that others and their things exist for his own benefit.

The desire for more money can lead to theft; the desire for more prestige, to evil ambition; the desire for more power, to tyranny; the desire for a person's body, to fornication and adultery. Paul identifies covetousness as idolatry because, in the place of God, it puts self-interest for illicit things. A man sets up an idol in his heart because he desires to get something from it. So he serves it to get that something rather than to obey God's commandment. That, very simply put, is idolatry.

The essence of idolatry is to get for the self in defiance of God. However, we have to give ourselves to God if we want to overcome illicit desires. Paul says to "mortify" (KJV) or "put to death" (NKJV) whatever is sinful. That does not mean to practice ascetic self-discipline—it means to kill. The Christian must kill self-centeredness. In his life, he must make a radical transformation, a shift of the center of his life. It is the same principle as described by Matthew 5:29. Everything that keeps a person from fully obeying God and surrendering to Jesus Christ must be surgically excised from his conduct.

The tenth commandment, then, has a function similar to the first. They both act as governors, controlling whether we keep the others.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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Post  Admin on Tue 04 Aug 2020, 9:41 pm

Ezekiel 20:10-13
(10) "Therefore I made them go out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. (11) And I gave them My statutes and showed them My judgments, 'which, if a man does, he shall live by them.' (12) Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them. (13) Yet the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness; they did not walk in My statutes; they despised My judgments, 'which, if a man does, he shall live by them'; and they greatly defiled My Sabbaths. Then I said I would pour out My fury on them in the wilderness, to consume them.

  Ezekiel 20:15-16
(15) So I also raised My hand in an oath to them in the wilderness, that I would not bring them into the land which I had given them, 'flowing with milk and honey,' the glory of all lands, (16) because they despised My judgments and did not walk in My statutes, but profaned My Sabbaths; for their heart went after their idols.

  Ezekiel 20:18-21
(18) "But I said to their children in the wilderness, 'Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers, nor observe their judgments, nor defile yourselves with their idols. (19) I am the LORD your God: Walk in My statutes, keep My judgments, and do them; (20) hallow My Sabbaths, and they will be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.' (21) "Notwithstanding, the children rebelled against Me; they did not walk in My statutes, and were not careful to observe My judgments, 'which, if a man does, he shall live by them'; but they profaned My Sabbaths. Then I said I would pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the wilderness.

  Ezekiel 20:23-24
(23) Also I raised My hand in an oath to those in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the Gentiles and disperse them throughout the countries, (24) because they had not executed My judgments, but had despised My statutes, profaned My Sabbaths, and their eyes were fixed on their fathers' idols.
New King James Version   Change Bible versions

Verse 24 gives a concluding statement as to why Israel was taken into captivity. There are two possibilities regarding Israel's Sabbath breaking. 1) Israel completely rejected God's Sabbath for another day. This possibility exists due to the instances of the "My/their" or "Mine/yours" contrast, that is, My Sabbath as opposed to your Sabbath. 2) They polluted the Sabbath by careless, self-centered observance.

The probability is that they did both—some people completely rejected the Sabbath, while others carelessly observed it. However, it was because of Sabbath-breaking, a type of idolatry, that they went into captivity.

When we look at secular history, even biblical history, and society around us, how to keep this day is a mixed bag. On the surface, what we see in the New Testament is rigorous legalism from the Pharisees or asceticism from the Gentiles. Today, we might call that an extreme "rightism" or perhaps a reactionary conservatism.

In today's world, though, we are confronted with the other side of the coin. We do not even begin to know how to keep the Sabbath because, from our earliest days, our culture's emphasis has been on Sunday, a day that cannot be kept holy because it was never made holy!

The cycle of six workdays and one day of rest and worship is a legacy of the Bible. But in fairly recent history, society has undergone a radical transformation because of scientific, industrial, and technological achievements. A shorter workweek provides us more leisure time. Businesses, however, make every effort to make the best use of time, to maximize production by scheduling work shifts so that the weekly cycle becomes a blur.

We have come to the place where we think that time totally belongs to us, and we can use it as we good and well please. This, in turn, makes a person very conscious of his free time. What does almost every individual do? He does the same thing that a business does. Every bit of time in a person's life is booked up because he wants to get the most out of life.

Even among those who are reasonably religious, the result has been that Sunday has become the hour of worship. The older among us can probably remember that, in the community, Sunday was once set aside very seriously. People did not work. They usually spent the day at home. Maybe the most secular thing they allowed themselves to do was to read the Sunday newspaper. Some, perhaps, did not even listen to the radio on Sunday because, to them, the day was holy.

But over the years, Sunday worship—which used to be kept somewhat as God expects us to keep the Sabbath—has now become, even among religious folks, an hour rather than a day of worship. People go to church for that one hour then perhaps return home. Or, maybe they go to a Sunday brunch at a restaurant. They spend the rest of the time on that day either making money or seeking their own pleasure.

All the while, the real Sabbath is ridiculed or ignored. This is what confronts us when we begin trying to keep it. A similar environment even affects those who continue to keep it. When we look in the Bible, we find that God does not give us many specifics as to how to keep it. God does, however, give us a number of broad principles, and He expects us to extrapolate from those principles in applying them.

— John W. Ritenbaugh
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